All posts in “Jean Cocteau”

Object of the Week: Ideas for Zanzibar with Dancer from Parade Triple Bill

A pioneering Pop artist, David Hockney has throughout his career pivoted effortlessly from medium to medium, continuously exploring his visual style. Though perhaps best known for his iconic paintings of Southern California swimming pools, Hockney has produced a much larger body of work, ranging from abstract paintings to photo collages to iPhone drawings. However, arguably lesser known is his work in stage and costume design: he has been involved in productions of Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress and Mozart’s Magic Flute, both at the Glyndebourne Opera in England, and Parade at the New York Metropolitan Opera, for which this drawing was created.

Grouped under the title Parade, the Met Opera’s 1981 triple bill brought together three pieces: Parade, a ballet written by Jean Cocteau with music by Erik Satie; Les Mamelles de Tiresias, an opera with libretto by Guillaume Apollinaire and music by Francis Poulenc; and L’Enfant et Les Sortileges, an opera with libretto by Colette and music by Maurice Ravel. Hockney designed the sets and costumes for all three performances.

Satie’s Parade, first presented at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on May 18, 1917—during the height of World War I—takes place in a world of circus acts and street fairs. Though written in 1903, Les Mamelles de Tiresias similarly premiered during the war, in June 1917. The surrealist play was described by one critic as “high-spirited topsy-turveydom” whose deeper themes are about the need to repopulate a France ravaged by war.¹ Lastly, L’Enfant et Les Sortileges, commissioned in 1915, is a “fairy ballet” exploring the inner emotional world of a child, where toys and animals come to life.

There is a long history of artists collaborating on theater and dance productions. Merce Cunningham frequently collaborated with Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, for example, and both the scenery and costumes for Satie’s original Parade were designed by none other than Pablo Picasso. For New York Times theater critic John Russell, Hockney’s designs for the 1981 presentation Parade are “not [Picasso’s] Parade redone from scratch. It is the Parade of 1917 revisited as if in a dream, with Picasso very much in mind, both as the original designer and as the poet of Les Saltimbanques—the tumblers and harlequins who turn up over and over again in the work of Picasso’s Rose period.”²

Largescale painted environment with separate elements based on Hockney’s design for Les Mamelles de Tiresias

Hockney produced many drawings for Parade, but the one in SAM’s collection is for the second opera in particular: Les Mamelles de Tiresias, set in Zanzibar, an imaginary town in France. Taking into account the circumstances surrounding the opera’s 1917 premiere, when the war was at its worst, Hockney incorporated details such as gas masks, helmets, searchlights, and barbed wire, the latter of which is included in this drawing.³ Though the unfinished blue sky suggests a certain incompleteness, it is important to keep in mind that this is, after all, a preparatory drawing. And despite the war-time setting, Hockney still manages to bring his bold, graphic, and colorful style to the mise en scène. In the image above, which more fully depicts Hockney’s playful cubist-inspired world, we get a sense of how such drawings were crucial for his development of these operatic worlds.

–Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Images: Largescale painted environment with separate elements based on Hockney’s design for Les Mamelles de Tiresias, from the 1983-84 Walker Art Center exhibition Hockney Paints the Stage. Ideas for Zanzibar with Dancer from Parade Triple Bill, 1980, David Hockney, Crayon on paper, Framed: 28 x 33″, Paper size: 19 x 24″, Gift of Robert and Honey Dootson Collection, 2010.37.26, © David Hockney.
¹Jeremy Sams, “Poulenc, Francis,” in The Penguin Opera Guide, ed. Amanda Holden (London: Penguin Books, 1997), 282.
²John Russell, “David Hockney’s Designs for Met Opera’s ‘Parade’,” in The New York Times, February 20, 1981, 1.
³ Russell, 1.
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Film/Life: Yves Saint Laurent Selects

As he grew up, Yves Saint Laurent’s personal and professional sensibilities were shaped by the art of film. The Seattle Art Museum and Alliance Française de Seattle present two of Saint Laurent’s favorite films, Children of Paradise and Beauty and the Beast, plus Belle de jour, for which he designed Catherine Deneuve’s costumes, one of which is in Yves Saint Laurent: Perfection of Style.

October 26
Les Enfants du Paradis/Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné, 1945)

Children of Paradise (1945 France) aka Les enfants du paradis Directed by Marcel Carné Shown from left: Pierre Brasseur, Arletty

Young Yves Saint Laurent and the cinema-goers of the world were swept away by this visually lush, romantic, witty, and ironic epic of intertwined life and art in the 19th-century Paris of Balzac. There are comedies and dramas in the teeming streets of the Boulevard of Crime and on the Funambules Theatre stage. Outside, the soulful mime Debureau (Jean-Louis Barrault) saves the beautiful courtesan Garance (Arletty) from being falsely accused of theft. She is the mistress of the sly, murderous criminal Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand), but this doesn’t stifle her sudden surge of love for Debureau. Over the years, this threesome’s dance of changing partners and betrayals is joined by a classical actor (Pierre Brasseur), an  aristocrat (Louis Salou) and a young actress (Maria Cessarès) as director Carné and screenwriter Jacques Prévert show us that “poetry and cinema are almost the same thing.” And we can throw in “the world is but a larger stage” for good measure. Stunning art direction by Alexandre Trauner, costumes by Mayo. In French with English subtitles, 35mm, 195 min.

November 9
La Belle et la Bête/Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau, 1946)

Beauty and the Beast (1946 France) aka Beauty and the Beast Directed by Jean Cocteau Shown from left: Jean Marais (as La BÍte), Josette Day (as Belle)

One of the most enchanting films for adults and children opens with poet-writer-director Jean Cocteau’s words: “Let me begin with the true ‘Open Sesame’ to childhood: Once upon a time . . .” In this marvelous live-action version of the classic fairy tale, an impoverished merchant (Marcel André) picks a rose for his daughter, Beauty (Josette Day) in a mysterious castle garden, and is confronted by the leonine Beast (Jean Marais), who accuses him of stealing. The Beast will spare his life if he sends Beauty to live at the castle. To save her father, she agrees, but faints when she first sees her fierce new companion. As her fear blossoms into compassion and affection, Cocteau conjures a wondrous realm of magic mirrors and golden keys, where tears become diamonds and “love can beautify ugliness.” It’s easy to see how this film about physical and emotional transformation could inspire Yves Saint Laurent, who would brighten women’s lives with creations of fabric and form. Art direction by Christian Bérard, costumes by Marcel Escoffier. In French with English subtitles, 35mm, 95 min.

November 30
Belle de jour (Luis Buñuel, 196
7)

Belle de Jour (France 1967) Directed by Luis Buñuel Shown from left: Macha Meril, Francoise Fabian, Catherine Deneuve

With abundant self-knowledge, Luis Buñuel, the cinema’s master Surrealist, said that “in the hands of a free spirit, the cinema expresses the life of the subconscious.” Beneath the chilly, reserved surface of a beautiful Parisian wife’s (Catherine Deneuve) bourgeois life, a torrent of unexplored sexual desire gushes. Like an innocent discovering an obscure pathway to her psyche and her body, she crosses the threshold of a brothel and goes to work. What she learns about herself in the house of women is a treasure of selfhood that she keeps secret, but her involvements with a young hoodlum (Pierre Clémenti) and her husband’s friend (Michel Piccoli) threaten to expose her. The film poses the provocative question: Is Deneuve’s narrative of emancipation all a dream or fantasy? One thing’s for sure: she wears, and steps out of, costumes by Yves Saint Laurent, one of which is in our exhibit Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style. Art direction by Robert Clavel. In French with English subtitles, 35mm, 100 min.

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– Greg Olson, Manager of SAM Films

Images: Courtesy of Photofest.
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